Gaming for Fitness: The Wii Fit Test Drive

WE’VE ENLISTED A 60-SOMETHING GRANDMOTHER TO TEST DRIVE WII FIT, an addition to the intuitive gaming system. After her tech-savvy 14-year-old grandson hooks up the Wii Board to the Wii, she’s ready to go.


Grandma steps on the balance board, a device that reads her body’s measurements and movements, and — after navigating through easy instructions to set up a virtual profile — submits to a body test. Her BMI and weight are deemed normal for her height and age. But when, after the balance test, the Wii cheekily asks if she sometimes finds herself tripping over her own feet, the hurling of cuss words — in more than one language — begins.

Once the body and balance tests are done, and she’s set a goal to lower her BMI slightly and lose two pounds in two weeks, she moves on to the four categories of more than 40 activities: yoga, strength training, balance and aerobics. “It’s a convenient way to build fitness into daily routines,” says Nintendo’s Matt Ryan, who considers Wii Fit a complement to one’s fitness regime, not a replacement for other forms of exercise.

In the aerobics session, a blast from the past: the Hula Hoop. Having played this all through her childhood, Grandma racks up the high score and earns new activities to try. In the balance section, the soccer activity demands you move your upper body from side to side to “head” the ball as it’s being kicked at you, while avoiding other flying objects. “I’m really starting to feel it,” she says, massaging her mid-section, or “core,” which is a good sign.

“Strengthening the core means more endurance,” says professional yoga instructor Monica Cordes, 49, based in Markham, Ont. “Our energy is in our upper abdomen. When we tone these muscles, we’re activating the core. It’s like there’s a battery there and you’re energizing the battery, so you have more energy to carry out your activities.”

According to Joyce Firlotte, administrator of the Perth Community Care Centre, where everyone from 40 to 91 is playing the Wii, there’s an added bonus. “It helps with social interaction,” she says. “People who have grandchildren or great-grandchildren, and who are often in long-term care, don’t have many activities they can do with them, but they can come play the Wii and do something they both enjoy.” Adds Ryan, “We know we’re on the righttrack when we see a grandparent playing with their grandchildren.”